Bulletin of Dental Education

Journal of Dental Education Article: Dental School Program Connects Recent Graduates with Underserved Areas

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A new article published in the latest issue of ADEA's scholarly publication, the Journal of Dental Education (JDE), illustrates the need for dental schools to become actively involved in recruiting students to practice dentistry in underserved areas. The article provides an example for how to implement such a program.

“Every state school has the responsibility to work to assure a dental workforce for their state,” said David C. Johnsen, D.D.S., M.S., Dean of The University of Iowa College of Dentistry & Dental Clinics (UI COD).

The JDE article, “Retaining New Dentists in Iowa: A Role for Dental Schools in Facilitating Graduates’ Connections to Practice Opportunities in Underserved Areas,” shows how UI COD addressed the concomitant problems of having an aging dental workforce and a high percentage of counties designated as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas (DHPSAs) in the state of Iowa. The article was written by Debra A. Hoyle, B.S.W.; Penni M. Ryan, B.L.S., C.P.P.; Jed S. Hand, D.D.S., M.H.S.A.; Peter Damiano, D.D.S., M.P.H.; and Galen B. Schneider, D.D.S., Ph.D.

In June 2006, the college, along with grant support from Delta Dental of Iowa, created the Office of Iowa Practice Opportunities (OIPO) to promote dental practice opportunities throughout the state. The office and its advisory committee developed and defined a list of six objectives to improve dentistry in Iowa: 


  1. Develop and maintain a web-accessible database of dental practice opportunities.
  2. Coordinate a student-mentor program.
  3. Develop a network of partners to assist in identifying and working with communities seeking a dentist. 
  4. Sponsor presentations to dental students highlighting the advantages of practice in Iowa and providing information on available resources.
  5. Travel to predominantly rural Iowa communities to help those communities recruit dentists.
  6. Facilitate communications between students and those offering practice opportunities. 


Since the establishment of the OIPO, the number of dentists under the age of 40 in Iowa has increased 77%. These dentists now compose 29% of Iowa’s dental workforce. The number of counties designated as DHPSAs also has decreased from 79 to 68. As of June 30, 2012, the OIPO had coordinated 141 placements for practices in 63 Iowa communities, and 70 of these placements were in rural communities. Moreover, an average of 25 students, in the typically 75-student graduating class, go on to pursue practice opportunities in the state following graduation.

The success of Iowa’s program prompted several other schools to consult with the college to develop their own programs. The authors believe that the OIPO could be used as a model for other statewide dental organizations.

“We see this as an opportunity for our college to add value to our state and university as well,” said Dr. Johnsen. “This program has become a key component in our efforts to recruit students from all over Iowa and to make it attractive to serve Iowa’s citizens.” 

Access the full report at www.jdentaled.org. To learn more about the ADEA Journal of Dental Education, visit www.adea.org/jde

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